Sunday, April 19, 2015

Heart of Secrets by Ellen Mae Franklin


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Up a hole

Her struggling slowed,eventually ceasing altogether. She was a bundle of bones and rags that hepulled along after him. Scraping and bruising her already ravaged body, theycontinued in the dark. Pellimac occasionally whimpered, but for the betterpart, shock kept her silent. Father tried, crooning affectionate clicks andclacks at her joyous return, but it only terrified her more.

Rats fled the pair. Even the darknessseemed to shy away in the face of Father’s fanatical headlong rush. She was hisagain! Hours passed, and the jubilant Speck and the stunned nomad womanstopped. His bony fingers clenched Pellimac’s wrist so tightly that smudges ofblack already rising to the surface of her skin held the promise of blood redrings. Deep in the inky murk, a part still pure and intact screamed at the lossof the sky and open earth. She wept. Her cries excited Father as she dragged inlungfuls of air in between loud sobs.

He said, she said. Iwonder who said what?

So, this was punishment. Nodoubt, the retribution was to satisfy their aching hearts, stupid wet sacks ofmeat. Hadn’t the female told her so? Kitty spat, and the last of Mumbunda’sempathy fell away, a pointed finger sealing her fate. But it meant nothing. InKitty’s world, killing was life, a consequence of the need to feed. There wereno reprisals for carnage or death and after all, hadn’t she been hungry?

Hanging upside down, Kitty dozed. Herconfinement was so boring that her teeth ached from it all. She craved food.She was so hungry that her belly ached, her teeth ached, her blood wept. Butunderneath it all sang a single shiny thought, pure and clean. Maybe despiteher mother's blood, she was a true Speck after all.

There can be no goingback

It was strange that she feltat home here, in the killing shades. The dark, surrounded by memories withlayers of insanity, would have left another screaming, but not Pellimac. Shewas so far removed from anything embodying normality that she succumbed to hersurrounds with quiet capitulation. The woman, emaciated and coated in layers ofgrime, patterned with old blood from the many scrapes and cuts on her worn outbody, rested on her haunches. She watched the single flickering candle flame.Aware that Father and Hi’ayman sat close by, she rocked back and forth,crooning softly.

My son. She repeated this manytimes over in her mind. It helped to slow the internal screaming intothe barest of whispers, giving her the courage to look up at Hi’ayman. Fromunderneath a filthy veil of hair, shading her exhausted features, she smiled.

Done and dusted

Ordinary persons would have drawnstraws to see who it was that went through the crack first, but this lotcouldn’t be called ordinary and the situation they were facing wasn’t ordinaryeither. This bunch was in a tight fix. They were damned if they stayed anddamned if they moved ahead.

Kendrai went first. Pellimac was hisresponsibility, and as Heir Apparent, no one was in a position to argue hisright. It was agreed that Monlith would follow, Stowic and then Shai behind himwith Noloc bringing up the rear.

Through the fissure he climbed, makinghis way cautiously forward. Who knew what manner of man or beast lived in thedark? A dusky glow skulked in the far corner of the room, shapes shifted androcked about, voices drifting lazily from the crook.

One by one, the party of searcherscrawled forward, clustering together in a cramped space behind a wall of sortsto the much larger chamber. They thought themselves secret, hidden away fromthe other occupants as they quietly communicated together. How wrong they were.

To err is to beforgiven
A crowd had gathered aroundthe front of the dormitory. It was one of four in a set of neatly rowedbuildings. In the doorway pressed a number of older students, most openlycrying, others mute with horror.

“Get back! Get back!” roared a loudvoice.

The doorway emptied, and within its frameleant the roly-poly man. Ashen faced, his mind did its best to grasp the bloodymess behind him. “What’s happened here?” he mumbled and stared about at thecrowd outside. In all his years as a healer, he had never seen such carnage.

Other magi arrived, some drawn fromtheir beds by the screams, wrapped in nightgowns and mantles in an attempt tokeep out the night’s chill.

One young lad, noisily emptying hisstomach onto his shoes, stopped and wiped a shaking hand across his mouth. Hespat and blearily looked up at his Master.

“You don’t want to go in there, sir.”And he began to throw up all over again.

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